A Question of Fortitude in Iraq?

President Bush says he wants to stay the course in Iraq. NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr asks, "What course?"

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has been watching the news from Iraq and weighing statements by Iraqi officials and actions by President Bush. He's come away with an overarching question.

DANIEL SCHORR: President Bush likes to say he will stay the course in Iraq. The question is what course? Is it a course that has so far cost some 2,700 American lives, 100 Iraqi lives a day and an estimated expenditure of $300 billion? Is it the course which, according to a leaked consensus estimate of the intelligence community, has made Iraq a primary recruitment vehicle for the next generation of violent extremists and weakened the global fight against terrorism?

The president has said that Iraq is the central battleground in the war against terrorism, but the intelligence agencies suggest that if this is so, it is only because the war has made it so.

Intelligence Czar John Negroponte puts it delicately when he says that there have been some notable successes but that there is still much to be done in the war against terrorism. But the intelligence estimate seems to agree with Osama Bin Laden, who said on a videotaped release last January that the number of fighters was increasing, that Iraq had become a point of attraction and recruitment.

In New York last week, the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, told a Newsweek correspondent that President Bush assured him he would continue to support the Iraqi people, that he would remain in Iraq until the Iraqis asked him to leave.

In public, President Bush stands his ground stalwartly, but in private, we learn from the Washington Post, he is sometimes given to tears when he meets with a war widow. In one case, a woman met in private with the president and broke into tears as she talked of her two fatherless children. Mr. Bush kept repeating I'm so sorry for your loss. At one point his eyes welled up. But when she pleaded with him to bring the troops home, he said only we see things differently. As of now, he is staying the course.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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